Face it, summer is here, even if it isn’t in full swing yet. It’s barbecue season, and with the budgets most of us have, burgers are still big bucks out of it. That means we want to get the most flavor out of each and every dollar.
Grilled burgers are one place that going for the low-fat ground meat might not be your best choice. The fat in the burgers makes the smoke, and most of the “barbecue” flavor. Here’s some other hints to help make those burgers really pop.
- Don’t “squish” the burger. That forces the meat’s juices out of the meat, causing the burger to be dry.
- Don’t go straight from the refrigerator to the grill. For maximum flavor, let the burgers come to room temperature. Season the burgers on a platter (not the same one you’ll be serving them on though) and set out of the sun (in the kitchen is great) for about 30 minutes to allow the meat to lose its chill.
- Use densely packed burgers. Use a burger press/mold or buy pre-shaped patties. It’s very hard to get really densely packed meat when shaping them by hand. Densely packed meat is less likely to fall apart or break on the grill.
- Bakery or artisan rolls can make those burgers really POP. Why spend all that money on the meat, only to have it be ho-hum on a mass produced bland and tasteless cheap hamburger bun? Try kaiser rolls or onion rolls…or even bagels! Toasting buns can also make them much more attractive. For best results, either toast on the grill or in the broiler, toasting ONLY the cut side of the bun or roll. Ciabetta, hard rolls, pistolettes, and French rolls are also good options.
- Condiments really make the burgers. Sometimes, we forget what a wide choice we actually have on hand too. Typical choices include mayonnaise (try homemade mayo for some serious fresh taste), mustards (dijon, German, coarse ground, brown, yellow, etc.) ketchup (these too also come in “gourmet” versions), pickles, and pickle relish (dill or sweet). My favorite? Ranch dressing! Thousand island, bleu cheese, Italian, and poppy seed are also options.
- Vegetables. Don’t forget the veggies! We all know fast foods options of lettuce (iceberg), tomato, and onion…but what about red onions, fresh spinach, alfalfa sprouts, bean sprouts, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms…even things like beet relish, chow chow, roasted chili peppers (try poblanos or California slim jims for mild heat, cayenne or jalapeno for more intense heat…just roast on the grill until the skin gets bubbled and has scorched spots, set aside and remove skins before putting on the burger–it gets TOUGH)
- Cheese. It doesn’t have to be a slice of bland, plastic-y American cheese. Go all out. Gouda, sharp cheddar, pepper jack, colby, hoop, Swiss, feta, bleu cheese, gorgonzola, brie…if you can put it in a bun with a burger, its fair game. Gouda, swiss, and other cheeses are also commonly available smoked, which adds another layer of flavor to your burger. Shredded cheese, piled high and fluffy, is visually appealing too!
- Seasonings. Face it, ground meat is “steak” that’s already been through the grinder. It needs seasoned the same way. Typical seasonings? Salt & pepper, garlic, Worcestershire sauce…but try some others too! Steak dust, Montreal steak seasoning, chili powder, smoke flavoring, barbecue sauce, coriander, etc. will all do their best to add some serious flavor to your meat.
- Diners. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t say this…but food always tastes best when eaten with agreeable, pleasant, and cheerful company. Grumpy and unpleasant company is unlikely to make those burgers taste better. Invite people you LIKE and like spending time with to your barbecue…everything will taste better!
May 2011 be the summer of great burgers on your grill, and remember…enjoy yourself! We’ll only have Summer 2011 once!